I felt the urge to share this personal experience today - I have been looking for the right description for my current "state" but the search hasn't been successful until my beer talk last night with a few people I met for the first time. It was an accomplishing, fulfilling and rewarding conversation that brought me a whole host of psychic reward.
And I am officially announcing here that I am on a career break right now and the reason I am doing this is to elevate the quality of my life and to replenish my own sense of wonder for the world we live in.
Whenever I mention to someone that I am currently unemployed or I quit my last job to take a break, the most common response is a variation of "that's what young people would do" and "Are you mad?". But seriously, career break is essential, almost as important as planning out for your career path or even your whole life. And career breaks are NOT ONLY for young and single people. With good amount of planning, EVERYBODY can (or need to) go on a career break. You just have to be intentional about it!
I worked at my last company for five years and I have done really well at work. I have received good number promotions and everyone I worked with was absolutely cool. I remember when I told my manager that I have decided to quit and spend some time travelling. She was so shocked because I just got promoted and was about to receive a larger role. My manager suggested that I could take a shorter break and offered me different options to work flexibly/remotely while I could still travel.
One night I was sitting with myself, weighing all my life priorities and options. Considering who I am, what I want and what to do next. It's the burning desire to learn moved me to act in unexpected ways and led me to overcome this tempting period - I was almost going to fall back and postpone career break to "next year" that is not going to come. I knew I had to change - so I decided to listen to my heart and do it THIS TIME.
So I went back to my manager, turned her down nicely, served my notice period and officially became unemployed one fine morning day. Was it hard to leave? Actually, it was the easiest thing to do. It almost felt natural.
But just to remind everyone that this was not an impulsive decision that I have made without thinking. I came up with a rough idea on duration, finance, timing and what I would like to do this entire time. I always keep my exit strategy in place just to make sure if anything goes out of hand. I know my next few months are not going to be the same as how it was like in the last five years. But if I survived my career break, I am going to become an improved version of myself and that's what I want.
My life has indeed become so much simpler and meaningful when I left the baggage of my past behind and head out of home. I could no longer spend like how I used to be, no more expensive dresses and new bags every two months. I had to budget my spending daily, weekly and monthly. Not going to lie, sometimes I have to eat cheap to save for flight tickets or when I overspent from previous night's beers. Not traveling like a glamorous traveler posting cute selfies tasting great food at fine restaurants. I wore shorts and plain t-shirts. I literally lived in hostels and make my own food at the kitchen. I have to work sometimes so that I can get free lodging just to save every single penny possible to keep life going. But, I learnt to appreciate the little pleasures in life even more.
So what have I been up to during the last few months of career break？I volunteered, traveled, painted, took pictures, tried yoga, ran 5km daily, made new friends and spent good amount of time at home with family. Indulging myself in the pursuit for my passion(s) and to adopt new passion. Simply things that I have been wanting to spend my full attention on for so long, and I called it a reward for working five years straight for one single company.
And this is totally logical if you think about it - We need to get rewarded for doing something good so you would perform better in the future. Sometimes we reward our subordinates at work by giving promotions, we reward our children on their birthdays or doing well at school, we reward our parents on special occasions... This is how I felt is necessary to reward myself in order to function better as Wen - professionally, personally and spiritually.
I have met many people who have been working straight for decades to fulfill all sorts of different life commitments, mostly financial commitments - home mortgage, children's education, expensive cars, designers' bags, alcohols, luxurious holidays...etc etc. When I spoke with them, they are normally people who have all sorts of complaints about their spouse, their work, and their lives. And when I asked if they have considered a break, those are the people who asked if I were mad and according to their schedule for a break, retirement it is. Quitting job without an alternative job offer in place is an absolute absurd thing to do.
You know what is best for you and your life. I am sharing today because it just seems to me like "career break" has never been a life option or a society norm to most people - almost like an alienated term or negative action to some people. The objective of me writing this article today is to share with you that taking breaks is not an option only for young people but EVERYONE, you just need to make good planning for it. It does you good and make you better. I have done it and certainly feel proud about it - Everyone has different needs for breaks. I know a friend (click here to read his blog) who has done it for years and he is simply kicking ass. Another friend who has just started on his career break for two months and is enjoying every single day of his life venturing into new knowledge every day.
There are no doubt examples of people who gave up in the middle of their breaks but never have I heard about them regretting their decision to take a career break. They returned to their original life as a new and changed person that they adored even more than before. So you can always be very flexible about how you like to design this break for no one else, but for yourself!
So.....Career break it is, something you may want to start thinking about for yourself today!
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